A tale of Biri Biri
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Alhaji Momodu Njie - 'Biri Biri' - is the man who put the country on the footballing map over 30 years ago.
More popularly known as 'Biri Biri', Njie is still a household name in The Gambia and is regarded as the best footballer the country has ever produced.
In 2000, he was given the Order of Merit by the Gambian President Yahya Jammeh as the country's greatest footballer of the last millennium and of all time.
His former international team-mate, Alhaji Babou Sowe, goes one step further in his praise for the former Seville player.
"I classed Biri Biri even above Maradona because he was a great goal scorer, dribbler and could play with both feet," Sowe said. "Biri Biri is the best player Africa has ever produced." Another former Gambian international, Omar Sallah, expressed similar sentiments. "Biri Biri was superb, he was a complete footballer and he is the best by anybody's standard. He used to save the day for The Gambia when things were rough with his skills and without doubt, he's the best player I have seen in my life."
Biri Biri was the first Gambian to play professional football overseas when he signed for Danish club B.1901 Nykobing FL in 1972.
The club spotted him when they came to Banjul for a training camp and in 1973 he left the team to join Spanish side Seville. "My best moment in my career was when I helped Seville to gain promotion to the Spanish First Division league in my second year with the club," said Biri Biri who now serves as Team Manager for the Gambia Scorpions.
"I was so popular in Seville throughout my seven-year spent with them because I delivered very well and I was considered one of their best players. I was the first black player to play for the club. I was a complete footballer since I was skillful, a great goal scorer and very fast on the ball.”
Despite his popularity and skill, Biri Biri never won a medal. "I was unable to win anything in my career both at club and international levels and that is the most unfortunate thing in my career," explained Biri Biri. "The closest I came to win a trophy was when my Danish team reached the final of the cup but we lost and that is my worst moment in football." He is still a popular figure with Seville fans, with one group of supporters naming themselves after him.
From Seville, Biri Biri returned to Denmark in 1980 to play for Herfole before he finally returned home in 1981 to join Wallidan FC where he stayed until he retired in 1987. Before his professional career in Europe, Biri Biri played for Black Diamonds, Phomtoms and Augustines in The Gambia, as well as Mighty Blackpool of Sierra Leone. Biri Biri's international career started in 1963 when he played as a schoolboy. He was appointed the Deputy Mayor of his town of birth, Banjul, in 1994 when President Jammeh came to power, a post Biri Biri has since relinquished. He is currently the manager of the Royal Albert market in Banjul.
Author: Written by Nanama Keita
Source: The Daily Observer Newspaper